I gazed up at the tall, sad building, my hands tight around my cloak as my eyes squinted to make out its shape. The only light available was that from a street lamp down the road, lighting up the building just enough for me to make out its figure.
I told myself, for what seemed like the hundredth time that night, that I was being stupid. Why was I here? What good could possibly come out of this? But, standing here, I knew I had to go on further, even if that meant hurting myself in the process.
My mind had been made up as soon as I'd woken that night. It was almost midnight when I sat up in my bed and gathered my thoughts, trying to calm down my breathing from the dream which had gotten me so worked up. A dream about him. For weeks, I'd been seeing his face in my mind. The face which had haunted me so horribly since I'd left him behind in the catacombs under the opera house. At the time, it had just seemed like the thing that needed to be done. And even now, with my wedding less than a day away and my life already planned and laid out in front of me, I couldn't deny that I'd made the right decision. Still, seeing as it was the decision I had chosen, I couldn't be sure that it was the right way...
His pleading eyes still shone at me, every night before I fell to sleep. I'd relived that night over and over again in my mind so many times since Raoul and I had escaped, and the pain from seeing him in such a state wasn't easing at all. I hadn't been fair. I'd turned around without looking back. And if his life was any bit as horrible as what I'd gathered, that was something that I needed to apologise for. After all, there was no reason why I couldn't see him one last time, right? Of course, I almost belonged to Raoul, but to give the man who had watched over me for the longest of times some piece of mind and let him know how sorry I was...
I hadn't known I was sorry until tonight. Yes, I had always felt a little guilty for leaving his tortured soul down in his lair, but I always blamed it on the fact that he'd looked so pathetic. He had nothing. And when he thought he'd finally gained me, I'd snatched myself away, as well. Raoul was clearly the person who I was meant to be with - I was happy. I was going to be happy in years to come with Raoul. He had so much to give me, and I was excited to be recieving it and his love until we grew old together. But if I was going to enjoy it to the fullest extent, I needed to rid my angel of music from clouding my thoughts, and the best way I could think to do this was to let him know how sorry I was.
Almost two hours ago my feet had slipped out of the small bed in the cluttered room I'd called my home since leaving the opera house. I'd tip-toed past the door behind which I knew my new friend Clara - one of Raoul's family's maids - was sleeping, and out of the small house beside the estate. The mansion usually loomed out at me, day or night, but tonight was something different. There was no moon tonight, and it had been almost impossible for me to find my way to the road and into the comfort of the street lights that lead me to the Giry's house, a quick walk away.
I'd knocked quietly, hoping I had the right place. Meg had been to see me only the week before to let me know they had purchashed a small place to live while the opera house was being rebuilt. This was where she'd explained to me, but I couldn't be sure. However, after several moments, the heavy wooden door swung open, and Meg herself was rubbing her eyes in front of me.
"Christine?" she asked in confusion, lifting the candle she was holding in front of her face. "What are you doing? Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"I'm sorry, Meg," I reached my arms out to pull her outside with me, into the small garden so we would be sheltered by the thick plants. Any distance between us and her mother was what I had wanted at that moment. I knew if the older woman had come out to investigate and found out what I was going to ask, it would not end well. I was still relieved that Meg had been the one to answer the door. "I'm being haunted." I told her desperately.
"What are you talking about, Christine?" she asked. Her yawning ceased and she began to look a little worried.
I bit my lip and looked at the ground. "I know your mother keeps in touch with him, Meg." when I looked back up to my best friend, her face was blank. In all the years I'd known her, I'd learned to read her like a book. She was trying to keep something from me. "He's not really dead, is he?"
"Well, I assume so, Christine...all of Paris seems to think he perished in the fire."
"I can tell when you're lying to me, Meg."
She gave a small sigh and looked away from me. I raised an eyebrow and continued questioning her. "Do you know where he is, Meg? Can you take me to him?"
"Good heavens, Christine! It's not proper for me to be standing out here in my nightgown, let alone dragging you around the streets of Paris at an hour so late! Why would you ask such a thing?"
"Please, Meg. I need to see him."
"You're getting married in the morning." Meg hissed, resting her hand on my shoulder as she tried to knock some sense into me. "Think of Raoul. Would he be happy with you disappearing off, into the night like you are? Especially tonight, of all nights! Does anyone know you're out here?"
"Meg, if you don't let me know where he is, I swear I won't stop looking until I find him."
"Do what you must, Christine. But it's your fault if you're late to your own wedding. I had nothing to do with it."
"But you'll be the one they come to if they can't find me." I tried desperately, pleading with her through my eyes. "You're the last one I came to. And Meg, we both know you're a terrible liar..."
Meg glared at me for a long time in silence while I looked hopefully down at her in the light of the candle.
"Fine," she finally sighed. "But I'm only going to give you directions. You need to find your own way there." she paused for a moment, then added. "And promise me you'll be back in your cottage before anyone has the chance to find you gone."
I nodded quickly. "I promise."
She explained how to get to the small street in a whisper, glancing at the window every few moments lest her mother make an appearance, then told me about what I should expect the building to look like, not that her ever-so-detailed description was helping me in the intense darkness right now.
When she'd finished, I'd hugged her tightly, thanking her over and over again. She'd held me back, promised she'd see me at the wedding, then glided back inside in her graceful ballerina way.
So here I was, standing outside what I only hoped was the deserted apartment buildings Meg had sent me to. I carefully pulled myself up the few steps that lead to the old door and opened it quietly, my heart beating faster at the thoughts of what could be waiting for me on the other side. My mind slipped from terrifying thoughts of insects...spiders...to things more childish like murderers and monsters, but still I pressed on. I'd come this far and I sure as hell wasn't about to turn back now.
I closed the door behind me, getting rid of the only light I had from that one streetlamp, then turned to face a pitch black room. I swallowed loudly, and hadn't taken more than two steps when I felt something cold press itself against my mouth. I gasped in fear, realising is was a hand and tried to push myself away when it spoke.
"Why are you here?" it whispered viciously.
All at once, relief replaced my fear. I knew this wasn't right, for he was a murderer himself, but the fact that I had found him was enough to keep me from being scared. I'd done it.
HIs cold fingers slipped from my mouth as soon as they'd come, and I whispered into the dark. "Thank goodness it's you,"
Silence greeted me. Was he still there? But after a few moments, I heard him. "Christine?"
"I had to come and find you." I told him. "I had to see you before..." I trailed off, wondering what I was about to say. Why was I here? To apologise. So why hadn't I gotten it over and done with yet?
"Before what? Before returning back to the bed where you left that boy? Why are you here? To let me know how wonderful your life is now that you have everything you ever wanted?"
"We're not married yet." I told him, my eyebrows pulling together slightly. I hadn't expected him to be this cut off from me. Right before I'd left him, he'd been pouring himself out to me, but now...it was like it had never happened. Still, I knew he had a right to be like this. I'd left him with nothing. I'd left him in the most hurtful way anyone ever could. I'd left him to the mob that had been searching for us, and hadn't even bothered turning back to make sure he would be okay.
"Yet," he spat.
I heard him turn and begin pacing away from me, and I stumbled forward in the dark. "We're getting married tomorrow. But I woke tonight and knew I had to find you."
"Why bother?" he groaned in frustration. "What good is this doing either of us? Was there some reason as to why you're here? Or did you just wish to torture me with the thoughts of you in his arms tomorrow? In twenty-four hours, you would have forgotten about me, Vicomtess."
"Don't call me that," I sighed. This wasn't my angel in front of me. This facetious, dark creature was the Phantom of the Opera, and though I wanted to stay strong and stand up tall for myself, I was worried about breaking down in fear. I wondered if he were still near me when the silence dragged on, and stretched a hand out in front of me. "Please..."
I couldn't feel him in front of me. I was sure now that he'd left me in the darkness, and though I knew I ought to be turning and making my way back to the small cottage I'd called home the last few weeks, I ventured forward hopelessly, catching my foot in something on the floor and falling forward.
I raised my arms up in front of my face to sheild it from the impact I knew was coming, but it never did. Instead, my body fell onto another in front of me, and his hands caught my arms to stop me from falling any further.
The two of us breathed loudly in the darkness, trying to figure out what was happening as we stood so close to one another...I could feel his chest against my own as I straightened my knees. His hands on my arms were making my stomach churn, in a way that wanted me to tell him to hold me tighter, but I knew I couldn't do that. What was wrong with me? Raoul slipped into my thoughts, and I frowned. Why didn't Raoul's hands feel like this? Raoul...perfect, perfect Raoul...
"Why did you come here?" his voice sounded dangerous in the darkness, and I shook my head despite the darkness, at that moment not really knowing why I was there myself. I tried to gather my thoughts.
"I...I had to apologise."
"For what?" he growled. "Leaving me? Leaving with that percfect boy of yours? The one who can promise you the moon, while I would have only ever been able to give you darkness? Why on earth should you apologise for the one thing that was obviously going to happen?" his hands pushed me away, and I lost my balance from the force, falling back, onto my backside with my hands out behind me. I gaped at the pain, but didn't say anything as he continued. "I was a fool for thinking you would ever want me...for thinking anyone would ever want me...but I won't make that mistake again. I know now there is nothing for me in this world. The one thing I desperately wanted has been pulled out of my reach, and now there's nothing here for me. There's no point."
I climbed to my feet silently, listening to him and feeling his despair fill me. This poor creature...forever alone, just as I had felt once, years ago. For the first time, I'd realised the last few weeks had been lonely for me, too. With nothing to do most days except sit in the small sitting room in the cottage with Clara, or in the larger one in the mansion beside the cottage while Raoul tended to work, I'd grown to miss the excitement that had always been going on inside the opera house...was that really the life I wanted to live?
"You could have given me more than darkness, Angel." I said quietly. Why was I saying this? Where was this coming from? He didn't respond, and I kept talking, walking back to where I knew he was standing. "Your music would have been enough." I said quietly as I made it back to him. My hands were trembling as I reached up in front of him, and I grasped his face gently. Under my left hand, I could feel the cold porcelain of the mask that hid his face from the world, and under my right...a soft cheek. A wet cheek. There were tears leaking from his eyes.
"I'm sorry," I told him quietly. "You've been so good to me, Angel. And I had the nerve to leave you and try to forget."
That was it. I had told him. Now I could go. Back to Raoul. Back to the cottage where I could sleep with nothing but dreams of Raoul and how we were going to spend our lives together, so happily. I should tell him right now that I was going...but I didn't.
His hand reached up to hold my own against the deformed, right side of his face, his fingers trembling slightly against my touch. "Oh, Christine." he breathed my name, and I closed my eyes at the sound of his beautiful voice, never wanting to forget. He made even the most simple sentences sound like music, and hearing my name leave his lips was like listening to one of the most beautiful operas in the span of the shortest of moments.
Before I knew what was happening, before I could even think of what I was doing, I pulled his face to mine and pressed my lips against the distorted form of his own for the third time in my life.
I felt him gasp against me, but I deepened the kiss, my body reacting on its own. I remembered the kisses we had shared back in his lair...the feeling I got from them was not a feeling I'd ever shared with Raoul. While Raoul's experienced lips had taught me what to do, this man in front of me was learning with me. We were making it up as we went along, and it felt wonderful. His swollen lips against mine were more breathtaking than those perfect ones Raoul posessed...it was a relief to find something out of the ordinary for once, and I hadn't expected that. Raoul had never brought up the moments I'd shared with the Phantom once we'd left his lair. I had the feeling he thought it would be better if we just never spoke of it so I could forget. Of course, it was something I'd wanted to keep to myself...something too wonderful to speak about.
His hands were now running down my shoudlers, stopping on either side of my ribcage and holding me desperately. I was beginning to feel lightheaded at the perfection, and was thankful that he was holding me as I began to sway. I felt my feet leave the ground in instant, and after a few moments they met carpet. Were we in a different room?
Our kissing had become more messy and desperate, and it took me a moment to clear my head enough to realise something. I pulled away from him immediately and his hands fell from my waist. "Wait," I gasped.
"Forgive me," he sobbed. He sounded as if he were at the other side of the room now. Had he really put that much distance between the two of us? "I shouldn't have...I didn't mean to..." he sounded so distressed, and all I wanted to do was wrap my arms around him...where were these thoughts coming from? I was marrying Raoul tomorrow! Raoul! What was the matter with me? Kissing other men, not even giving any consideration to my fiancé -
I hadn't thought about Raoul once since the moment the Phantom and I began kissing. It was as if he were a thing of the past that would not be bothering us again...as if he didn't really matter. I frowned at myself. He did matter, didn't he? I was marrying him...shouldn't I have felt guilty for what had come over me only minutes ago?
The strange thing was...I didn't. Not one bit. It was as though the strange man I was with now had made me see clearly and realise I'd been living my life wrong. At that moment, all I wanted to do was push Raoul out of the picture and continue with the Phantom. Everything had felt so wonderful and right. I'd already gone further with him than I ever had with Raoul almost forcing himself on me, and I hadn't even realised.
"Did you leave?" he asked. I realised I hadn't said anything after being completely kept with my thoughts, and looked up toward him, despite not being able to see anything.
"I'm still here."
He sobbed again, and I frowned sadly. Why was he so upset? Had what we were doing not felt wonderful and amazing to him, too?
"You must go. Leave me. Let me be. Forgive me. Forget me."
I shook my head at what he was saying. Right now, that was the last thing I wanted to do. I knew if I turned around now and went back to Raoul, I would never be able to stop thinking about him. I would forever be wondering about what could have happened between us. When I'd set out earlier that night, I hadn't ever imagined something like this coming out of our confrontation, but now that it had happened, I couldn't imagine anything else. It seemed like that had been what was meant to happen, and I didn't want to change anything.
"I'm not leaving." I told him, surprising myself. I wasn't? Was I going to stay here? Drop to the carpet beneath my feet and wait until morning to see him before running back to Raoul? The thought of going to my wedding tomorrow made my feel sick to my stomach. And what was going to happen afterwards, when Raoul and I returned home? ...I couldn't think about it. Even his kisses were enough to make me want to pull away from him and retire to my room, blaming tiredness. That wasn't going to keep working after we were married.
The Phantom didn't say anything in return to my words, and I knew he would be just as confused as I was. What was I doing?
"I stopped," I continued, now not entirely sure that I was still speaking to him. "Because I realised I didn't know your name."
I was, once again, met with silence. Had he really left? Or was he still there...oh, God. Had I offended him? Did he even have a name?
When he spoke again, it made me jump. He was now less than a foot away from me, and his voice was queit, void of any emotion I was able to read.
"Erik," I repeated. Erik. That was is? Just Erik? But as I thought over it, Erik was wonderful. What a brilliant name! So simple, yet beautiful...
"Chrstine," he sighed. "Say my name again,"
"Erik," I said with a small smile. "Come here." as soon as I could feel him in front of me, I wrapped my arms around his neck and leaned up and forward to find his lips once more. They were soft and gentle again, and his hands took their time finding their way back to my waist. His fingers were shaking worse than they had been before, and I knew I ought to be explaining myself and my actions, but right now didn't seem like the right time. There were more important things to be doing. What they were, I wasn't completely sure, but I had some idea. I knew I should have been scared of what I expected this to lead to, but I wasn't. Thrilled, yes. Excited, yes, but not scared. I wanted this. I needed to be with him. This thought shocked me, and I reminded myself I should stop this while I could, but I dismissed it. I knew that if I didn't go along with what was happening to me, I would forever be wondering about what I'd missed out on.
It wouldn't matter that this night would become present in my mind during night I would spend with Raoul, because I was sure this was going to be the best out of all of them, and I could afford to think about such beauty during things that felt so unknown. I had suspicions that nights with Raoul wouldn't be like this at all, just from how I felt with him. With my angel - with Erik - I'd always felt so safe and secure. Almost always, anyway. There was only two occasions where I'd actually feared the man in front of me; the first being when he'd screamed at me for removing his mask, and the second where I'd pleaded with him to spare my fiancé's life, but every other moment we'd shared together had been moments where my mind had given into my body and let me be completely whole beside him. Thoughts of the first time I'd ever been in his lair filled my mind, and as I thought of him singing Music of the Night and making me forget the world I'd known, I found myself clinging to him more tightly, trying to tell him I was completely sure of what was happening.
He was groaning into my open mouth, and I was breathing heavily against his own, my thoughts becoming more and more clouded at every moment. After a while, I felt the hard springs of an old matress press against my back, and that was where I awoke from my thoughts and froze. This wasn't right...something was wrong.
"I'm sorry," he began apologising again, and like before I felt him move away from me in horror at what he had done, but this time I leaned forward and grabbed his arm before he could put too much distance in between us.
"No," I told him gently, trying to calm him, to let him know this was okay. He'd never been given anything in his life, from what I knew about him. And I assumed was the only person he'd ever kissed...he was as knew to all of this as I was. We were learning together, and I wasn't about to let him leave me confused and unfulfilled.
"Stay here." I murmured. I pulled on his arm, and he moved toward me slowly, freezing when he felt my left hand against the mask on his face. When I began pulling it from his skin, his hand caught my wrist so tightly it hurt.
"No!" he shouted at me. I waited a moment for him to release me, but he never did, so I parted my lips and spoke as reasonably as I could.
"Erik, please. Your face doesn't scare me. I..." I paused, frowning a little at myself at what was running through my head. Was I delusional or something? Never had I thought this would leave my mouth. "I think you're beautiful."
He sighed against my arm, and his hand around my wrist slackened, now just keeping a hold on me. I felt his head begin to shake. "No, Christine...no...don't know what you're talking about."
Before he could react, I pulled the mask from his face and my wrist from his hand and held it out of his reach. I heard him suck in a huge breath, and before he could begin screaming at me, pushed my cheek against his own...our faces pressed together...soft, light skin that seemed so brown compared to his own pale, mangled flesh.
"Christine," I felt a tear leave his eye, trapped in the distortion of his face and hit my own cheek bone. I closed my eyes and turned my face further into his, my free hand holding to him. Our chests were now, once again, pressed together, and I felt his heart beating so quickly against my own in desbeleif.
"It's okay, Erik," I said softly. "You don't scare me. I'm here."
I felt his hands, one holding my face, the other on my hand on his cheek as he held me, as if he didn't ever want me to pull away, but I did. I pulled away only to press my lips back to his again. It was as if doing this had caused something in him to ignite, and this time we didn't stop. His hands didn't shake against the buttons of my dress, and he didn't act inexperienced or scared like I knew we both were. From that moment on, we treated each other as perfect equals, perfectly following whatever feelings presented themselves to us.
Without an image of where the two of us were, all I could picture was Erik, and that didn't bother me at all. I concentrated on the sounds of our breathing, the noises we pulled from each other...the music we created togher. The fourth time we fell back, beside each other, was the time we dared to speak. We both said things together in the darkness that neither of us had ever thought we would tell another soul. Raoul was not mentioned. He didn't even enter my thoughts. I didn't think of him once after I'd removed Erik's mask, and when I thought back on this, I didn't feel guilty at all. It was as if, for only this night, the two of us had been the only two people in the world. We were doing nothing wrong. We were in our own private heaven, and no one would be able to break us away from it.
As I lay there hours later, exhausted, feeling myself fall toward unconsciousness, I raised my hand to Erik's face and brushed my fingers across the trails his unusual skin made. I'd wondered if he was asleep, but knew he wasn't when I heard him sigh contentedly against my hand. This was the first time he'd ever really seemed comfortable about me making contact with his ditorted face, and that made me smile.
"Sleep, Christine." he whispered, kissing my forehead gently. "My love."
I blinked heavily, happily, wanting nothing more to let him know that I loved him, too, more than anything, as my hand fell away from his face. But opening my mouth seemed like too much of a struggle, and I wasn't sure how I was going to cope, so I gave in to the tiredness, accepting the fact that I'd let him know in the morning, when I awoke in his stong, safe arms.
I honestly have no idea if I'm going to get any readers with this, so if I manage, hello! It gets better, I promise.
Also, if you're reading, please review so I know to update, because if I don't get any responses obviously I'm just not going to bother.
Have a good day! :)